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Prior art and new prevention strategies
At work, hands are exposed to particular risks. In addition to mechanical dangers, skin diseases and allergies in the workplace lead to absences and higher costs.
The European PPE Directive and EN 420 specifically note that “material in gloves, decomposition products and substances contained therein…may not have a negative effect on the health and hygiene of the wearer”. In the dermatological profession, too, the substances in gloves are ever more the focus of attention as a potential cause of allergies and sensitivities. The toxicological and dermatological harmlessness of safety gloves are therefore very significant and make a considerable contribution to reducing absences and health costs in companies.
The uvex phynomic series is a new way in which protective glove manufacturers can develop toxicologically and dermatologically harmless safety gloves. This is by means of seamless knitted safety gloves which have a cut protection level of 1 in accordance with EN 388 (mechanical risks) and can be used in particular for precision work, general assembly work and general activities (e.g. maintenance).
The “uvex pure standard”
The first clue to toxicological harmlessness in safety gloves is in testing for harmful substances in accordance with the international OEKO-TEX® standard.
However, not all substances used in the manufacturing process and in the wearing of safety gloves are part of the OEKO-TEX® testing catalogue. In particular, organic solvents (dimethylformamide, secondary amines etc.) and the group of vulcanisation accelerators and their corresponding secondary products (carbon disulphide, nitrosamine etc.) are not covered by the current testing catalogue.
New development concepts arise here and offer product solutions which dispense with the use of organic solvents and vulcanisation accelerators (accelerators) in the manufacturing process entirely.
The result is innovative hand protection products which are not harmful to health and have hypoallergenic characteristics. The uvex safety group uses the term ‘uvex pure standard’ to describe this high level of product purity.
The independent seal: “dermatologically approved”
New paths are being trodden in terms of a universal health strategy for hand protection by the uvex safety group in cooperation with the proDERM® Institute for Applied Dermatological Research GmbH.
As well as the toxicological harmfulness, dermatological tolerance must also be independently confirmed. The seal of quality “dermatologically approved” is awarded by the renowned proDERM® Institute for Applied Dermatological Research GmbH. The institute was founded in 1994 by the dermatologist and allergy specialist Dr Klaus-P. Wilhelm and is a pioneer in independent dermatological contract research.
The product which is to be certified must meet current dermatological and toxicological requirements. Another condition for the seal to be awarded is proof of skin tolerance in two separate studies. Generally, this involves a study with a maximised exposure (repeated patch test) of at least 30 test participants and an in-use study in which the product is used in a similar manner to how it would be used in reality, as well as medical testing, likewise of 30 test participants.
Step 1: dermatological/toxicological tests
The first thing to be tested is whether the composition of the product has been optimised in terms of skin tolerance. An independent toxicologist has to confirm whether or not the dermatological and toxicological requirements have been met.
Step 2: skin tolerance tests
This involves a repeated plaster test on at least 30 test participants. Due to the maximum exposure, a first evaluation of the skin tolerance is carried out. Test participants (of whom around 25% have sensitive skin or are type IV allergy sufferers) have pieces of the gloves applied to them – parts of the cuffs and the coating. The samples are applied occlusively for 24 hours. Tests are then carried out after 15 minutes, 24 hours and 48 hours under medical supervision. This means that tests are conducted for both immediate and/or delayed reactions (type I and type IV allergies). Water and soap are used as controls for the test. The whole test is repeated three times with the same test participants.
Step 3: Usage-based study
This relates to a dermatological usage test with a dermatological and allergenic evaluation which looks at the use of the product in operation over an extended period. To this end, 30 test participants are given the safety gloves over a period of two weeks. These must be worn daily for the duration of the working day. An ongoing assessment of allergic reactions is then carried out under medical supervision.
The result of the test has to show a good or very good skin tolerance. Products which only have an average skin tolerance do not receive the seal. This test is therefore able to confirm a very high level of skin tolerance in the uvex phynomic protective glove series.
Practical example: DEMAG Cranes
Dermatological harmlessness is, of course, only the first step. The product must also be accepted by users (particularly those with sensitive skin). DEMAG Cranes, the specialist in all types of cranes, employs a large number of people in the chain hoist department at the Wetter location in Germany. Wearing gloves is, of course, compulsory. In the gearbox assembly department, Safety Engineer Mr Flögel has been looking for a special solution for years. The 43-year-old Assembly Mechanic Detlev V. has had permanent problems with his hands for almost seven years. “Dry, chapped hands are a constant problem when wearing safety gloves. I have been having medical treatment since 2005.” Mr V. has exhausted all of the possibilities available to him and tested a variety of products but was unable to find a solution. In August 2011, he took part in a wearing test for a new product: the uvex phynomic FOAM safety gloves. “Ever since I’ve been wearing the gloves, I have not had any further problems with my skin,” he says.
This was not a one-off. Across the department, employees praised the excellent wearer comfort, the outstanding fit which enabled optimal assembly, and the exceptional skin tolerance of the product. This example shows that “pure” products can be used to solve acute problems or to identify latent difficulties. A large number of employees had come to terms with “minor” skin problems and were pleased when the introduction of pure products was able to restore things to normal.